Late last week Google announced an update named Hummingbird. It’s a big change. Depending on whom you ask, it’s the biggest change to their algorithm since a 2010 update called “caffeine.” And if you ask those of us at G5, it is the biggest change since 2001.
So what’s so big about it? Google says that it’s helping with more complex searches, searches that seem conversational. Example: “What’s the closest place to my house to buy Nike shoes?” If you’ve shared your address with Google, that information will now be considered. Furthermore, since you used the word “place,” Hummingbird can distinguish that you’re looking for a physical store versus perhaps an online store. The algorithm has the ability to concentrate on each word of the query so that the meaning of the whole query together can indicate your true intent.
In short, Google is to surface pages that have the meaning of the query versus the individual words.
Interestingly, a Google engineer said that much of this was driven by spoken search queries on smartphones and multi-device users. In the near future, you’ll be able to speak your search into your iPad. Google Chief Search Engineer Amit Singhal shared this example:
“In the next couple of weeks, you’ll be able to download a new version of the Google Search app on iPhone and iPad. With this update, you can get notifications across your devices. So if you tell your Nexus 7, ‘OK Google. Remind me to buy olive oil at Safeway,’ when you walk into the store with your iPhone, you’ll get a reminder.”
Google goes on to say that this algorithm actually has been in effect all month and that most users will not see a drastic difference. According to this FAQ document from Search Engine Land, Google’s direction is that “there is nothing new that SEO or publishers need to worry about.”
Our initial reaction is that this latest change continues to increase the importance of writing user friendly, contextual content on websites. But as with any big Google change, please be rest assured that we’re working hard and testing all assumptions.
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